October 18, 2012
BOSTON and PHILADELPHIA – At this week’s Digital Pharma East conference, WEGO Health Activists – social media power users involved daily in multiple online health communities – spoke out on the power of health social media, and the valuable role of transparent company participation.
“WEGO Health Activists told us that social media is an important tool for health communication – Health Care Company participation provides value to the community,” said Bob Brooks, Executive Vice President of WEGO Health, “and Health Activists are growing impatient with non-participating companies. Health Activist opinion leaders feel Health Care Companies have an obligation to the community to debunk misinformation by contributing accurate content about their products.”
The Value of Health Social Media
In an October 2012 online survey of 356 Health Activists conducted by WEGO Health, in partnership with the Digital Health Coalition, 81% of Health Activists agreed that Health Care Companies’ use of social media tools provides their communities with important updates on products or services, a substantial 9% increase over 2011 survey findings.
“Social media is a vital connection between patients and the companies who serve them. Patients recognize this and feel left out when companies remain silent. It is important for health care companies to utilize compassion to fix this missing link, and doing so will eliminate the chasm that exists between patients and their companies,” noted a Health Activist survey participant.
The Need for Regulation
In partnership with the Digital Health Coalition, the survey asked Health Activists to update their opinions on FDA regulation of companies in social media. A strong majority of online Health Activists support regulation of Companies’ social media participation:
- 82% of Health Activists agreed misinformation about Health Care Companies’ products that is left uncorrected online can be harmful to the public health
- 82% agreed Healthcare companies have a responsibility to correct misinformation in social media if they become aware of the content
- 66% called for regulation when companies pay for content to be placed in social media
- 80% agreed Health Care companies should be held responsible for comments they make in social media – but they should not be held responsible for comments made by other consumers
“Health Activists do want regulation of companies – but they are increasingly realistic about company responsibility for consumer generated content,” said Mark Bard of the Digital Health Coalition. “The 2012 survey shows a growing demand from consumers for realistic, useful social media guidance from the FDA.”
“[Companies should] get as involved as possible in social media and begin interacting with the public – monitoring the information for errors and misinformation is crucial not only to the sales of your product but to the health of all patients,” remarked a WEGO Health Activist.
The Pharmaceutical Company Imperative
47% of survey participants ranked the online patient community perception of pharmaceutical companies negative or very negative – while only 30% ranked pharma perception as positive or very positive. But 23% remain neutral, an opportunity for companies to engage community leaders.
In survey comments, WEGO Health Activists did cite examples of pharmaceutical company best practices:
- – “Novartis does the best job – you see Novartis pretty much everywhere – particularly in cancer related discussions.”
- – “Sanofi-Aventis is actively trying to involve the diabetes community through a fantastic social media manager”
- – “painaction.com, which is Endo Pharmaceuticals, is a fantastic online community. It has articles, lessons, personal stories, self checks, tools, pain library of communication skills, knowledge base, self management skills, emotional coping, med safety…”
The Bottom Line
“Pharmaceutical and health care companies have an obligation to consumers to bring accurate, credible information into the millions of health social media conversations going on every day,” Brooks noted, “while even the most active and passionate consumers welcome them, they want Companies and the FDA to define a set of real-world rules of engagement.”
For more information about the survey or to request a live presentation of the full survey findings, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About WEGO Health
WEGO Health is the first online home for consumer Health Activists, social media’s most active 10 percent, passionate about helping others lead healthier lives. Health Activists — organizers, connectors, leaders and contributors — meet at WEGO Health, then carry knowledge, content and relationships back to the health social web. In addition, WEGO Health’s Activist Social Network is the trusted community liaison to pharmaceutical and health marketers, who engage the Activist Social Network through innovative sponsorships, industry advisory panels, collaborative content development, widget distribution and more. Founded in 2007 and led by online health pioneers Jack Barrette and Bob Brooks, WEGO Health gives consumer health activists a voice to industry, and helps the world’s top health brands support, navigate, and participate in the evolving world of health social media.
About the Digital Health Coalition
The Digital Health Coalition, a nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) status, was created to serve as the collective public voice and national public forum for the discussion of the current and future issues relevant to digital and electronic marketing of healthcare products and services. The Digital Health Coalition’s vision is to identify and then recommend specific actions that will inform digital healthcare communication and engagement for the benefit of the public at large. Further, the Coalition’s projects and position statements aim to educate the public through the distribution of informational materials that will be widely reported in the media and referred to in setting of state and national digital health communication standards. For more information visit the DHC online at www.digitalhealthcoalition.org.